UK Teachers Report 4 Year Old Boy To The Terrorism Police For Drawing A Cucumber

from the what-a-pickle dept

The unintended but entirely predictable consequences from the UK’s disastrous Counter-Terrorism and Security Act keep on a-coming. You will recall that this handy piece of legislation tasked teachers with weeding out possible future-terrorists amongst the young folks they are supposed to be teaching. This has devolved instead into teachers reporting children, usually children that would be peripherally identified as Muslim children, to the authorities for what aren’t so much as transgressions as they are kids being kids. It has even turned some teachers into literal grammar police, because the universe is not without a sense of humor.

And now we learn that these part-teacher-part-security-agents may be incorporating art criticism into their repertoire, having reported a young Muslim boy of four years old to the authorities because of his inability to properly illustrate a cucumber.

Concerns were raised after the youngster drew a picture of a man cutting the vegetable. [The child’s mother] said she feared her children would be taken away from her and added: ‘But I haven’t done anything wrong… It was a horrible day.” Teachers and public service workers have a legal obligation to report any concerns of extremist behaviour to the authorities since July.

And here is the picture the child drew of himself cutting a cucumber.

Now, if we hold our nose and choose to forget for a moment that this is a four year old we’re talking about, and not the re-animated corpse of Vincent Van Gogh, we might all agree that the picture on the left looks like a person holding a giant freaking sword, instead of a kitchen knife. The picture on the right will look like pretty much anything you want it to look like because, again, this is a four year old toddler we’re talking about. So, it appears the teachers asked the child what he was attempting to draw in the picture, and the response would have been benign, except it hit one of the terrorism buzz-words, kinda sorta.

Staff in Luton told the child’s mother they believed he was saying “cooker bomb” instead of “cucumber”.

“[The member of staff] kept saying it was this one picture of the man cutting the cucumber….which she said to me is a ‘cooker bomb’, and I was baffled,” she told the BBC Asian Network.

So the child, in addition to being unable to draw a cucumber sufficiently to get teachers to understand the portrayal he was attempting, also wasn’t able to properly pronounce the word cucumber, and it apparently came out of his mouth close enough to “cooker bomb” for the nursery staff to freak out and into the de-radicalization program the child goes. I can’t stress enough that this child is four years old.

Nor that the staff’s interpretations here don’t make any sense. So they believed the child was saying he was sawing into a cooker bomb with a death-sword? And that’s a more plausible scenario than the staff concluding that this toddler was doing something completely innocent and wasn’t articulating properly?

One wonders, as always, just how much leeway would have been afforded the boy if he had pale skin and blue eyes.

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Comments on “UK Teachers Report 4 Year Old Boy To The Terrorism Police For Drawing A Cucumber”

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That One Guy (profile) says:

"Now remember son, don't say or do anything. At all. Just sit there and try to look harmless."

At this point parents in the UK should probably start teaching their sons and daughters that they’re better off not doing any homework, classwork, or answering any questions posed to them by teachers whatsoever. Sure that will likely result in failing grades, but better that than a ‘friendly’ visit with the witc- terrorist hunters.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: "Now remember son, don't say or do anything. At all. Just sit there and try to look harmless."


But iirc, they can fine you for persistant refusal to answer questions. But I don’t think they can use it as evidence if they do.

But it’s the UK, so the latter half of that sentence probably doesn’t mean anything in a corrupt judical system.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re: "Now remember son, don't say or do anything. At all. Just sit there and try to look harmless."

Yes, I was right.

Although certain financial and regulatory investigatory bodies have the power to require a person to answer questions and impose a penalty if a person refuses, if a person gives evidence in such proceedings, the prosecution cannot use such evidence in a criminal trial.[5]

G Thompson (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:2 "Now remember son, don't say or do anything. At all. Just sit there and try to look harmless."

> the prosecution cannot use such evidence in a criminal trial

Actually that isn’t fully correct due to the Adverse interference part of the Justice and Public Order Act 1994 (UK)

(Drawn form the same Wikipedia article – because I’m lazy)
Adverse inferences may be drawn in certain circumstances where before or on being charged, the accused:
* fails to mention any fact which he later relies upon and which in the circumstances at the time the accused could reasonably be expected to mention;
* fails to give evidence at trial or answer any question;
* fails to account on arrest for objects, substances or marks on his person, clothing or footwear, in his possession, or in the place where he is arrested; or
* fails to account on arrest for his presence at a place.

This is also specifically a part of the standard caution that Police give anyone once arrested in the UK

“You do not have to say anything, but it may harm your defence if you do not mention when questioned something which you later rely on in court. Anything you do say may be given in evidence.”[emphasis added]

NSW, Australia now has a similar thing law on inference which is very contentious though has not been really tested yet either.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: "Now remember son, don't say or do anything. At all. Just sit there and try to look harmless."

Now Timmy, what is 1+1?
– mmmmm, lawyer.
No Timmy just answer the equation.
– But my mommy and daddy said I shouldn’t answer any questions without a lawyer.

News: Mother and Father arrest after turning their child into a terrorist.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Hmm

So when a family had to actually fear being torn apart over the scribblings of a toddler,

Where did you get the “family being torn apart” bit from?

It isn’t in the report.

Plus the things that the mother said are easily explained by the promptings of reporters who know what will make the story newsworthy and are eager to obtain it.

Note that the (admittedly stupid) initial concern was not escalated by the police/social service , who decided to take “no further action”.

Dark Helmet (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re: Hmm

Do you think that might be because the press will typically highlight the most absurd cases, such as this, while including a note about just how many slightly less absurd but still absurd cases there are generally and trust the reader to understand that this is all dumb?

Or do you REALLY think that I, as the author, only get my druthers up in a twist when members of the Islamic faith are treated poorly? Because I’m generally considered the anti-religious hawk around these parts, so that would be a silly thing to believe….

Richard (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:2 Hmm

Or do you REALLY think that I, as the author, only get my druthers up in a twist when members of the Islamic faith are treated poorly?

No – you responded to the story that was available via the BBC and other places.

However my point was that – given the large number of nominally similar incidents that don’t get reported we don’t know the criteria by which such things reach the level of coverage where you would even be aware of them.

Now it may be that the simple stupidity of it is enough but we have no evidence that that is true and victimhood is such a big prize in the modern world that there must always be some doubt.

Anonymous Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:2 Hmm

Bears have been quietly coping with assertions that they are responsible for certain littering in the woods, and have been disparaged thus for millennium, no less. They have spoken with counsel and requested subpenas for witness lists. From their perspective, if there are no witnesses, the the allegations are merely hearsay and likely discriminatory.

There has been some grumbling about suing under ISDS. American bears would sue in the EU. EU bears would sue in the US. Both the EU and US bears would sue in Asia, and Asia would sue in the EU and US. Africa would sue everybody else because they have no bears and feel that they have been deprived of culturally significant anecdotes and proverbs.

Meanwhile, fallen trees are concerned with the quality of the worldwide collection of audiologists whom have failed to take notice of their falling, and have an apparent unfounded and demeaning fear of the woods.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Hmm

Before the Muslim invasion of Britain, it was the much-hated Irish who regularly constituted “the usual suspects” — and that was before the birth of The Troubles (and IRA terrorists blowing up train stations) gave the Brits a genuine reason to fear the Irish living among them.

It’s not often talked about these days, but there was once MUCH MORE discrimination against [pale skinned and blue eyed]Irish decades ago than there is against colored people today.

klaus says:

Re: Re: What?

I’m not convinced that the British people have ever hated or feared the Irish, certainly no more than Lancastrians have ever hated or feared folk from Cheshire, or Shropshire. Or people from Norfolk have ever hated or feared folk from Suffolk. Those plucky Brits survived The Blitz yet still give Germans the time of day on Mediterranean beaches. As for Ireland? Cromwell’s New Model Army was a long, long time ago.

The British are a mongrel nation, and all the stronger for it. The problem they have is that their leadership is, at least since the latter half of the 20th Century, far too arrogant, and utterly clueless.

Capt ICE Enforcer says:

Breed Fear

Look at how we have been brought to believe. With all the different media outlets talking about all the horrors of the unknown. People start to believe it is their duty to act. Whether motivated by the feelings that the proper authorities knows best, or the fear that if they don’t act something bad could happen to them or someone else. People will act strange to those on the outside looking in. But in the eyes of the UK this is exactly what they want. People afraid in order to get more power.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Breed Fear

if you ever play wolfenstein the new order there is a bit in a sewer lvl where you can overhear citizens reporting on each other because they have been conditioned to report anything that deviates from what those in charge consider the norm.

It really bothers me how that game really nailed it, with how people have been conditioned to report on each other.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: The unintended effects of this legislation is ...

Yes, unintended, because they intend to use fear to reduce the potential terrorism in their own citizens by raising the bogeyman of “aliens amongst us” being the terrorists instead.

The budgets are based on what they can scare out of the silly pollies based on “hooo aliens amongst us – can’t trust, bad aliens” and “I’m scared for May safety”.

MadAsASnake (profile) says:

Who are the terrorists here? Why would anyone charged with the responsibility of a 4 year old even believe that terrorism would be something that a 4 year old would comprehend? What possible good could come from this? Why put a family through this? Theresa May needs to be told to put a stop to this stupidity. School teachers have far better things to do than bang her drum.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re:

Because the teacher was able to shut down the class for the entire week and got a paid vacation essentially.

There’s a certain school in Luton (you can google) which does this because ‘there are black kids and they’ll stab someone’ etc etc.
The local Authority has to pay for the shut down / stress holiday for the teacher etc..

Anonymous Coward says:

So this child has learned at an early age not to trust authority. He’s also learned not to do things in a class room for fear that the most innocent action might bring outlandish reactions.

The family has learned by this time that kindergarden isn’t a place to put children, that is if you want your son or daughter to stay with the family. Be sure that this is just the beginning and other families will soon learn the same lesson.

So how long before a revolution happens?

Jibberish says:


Surveillance and forcing people to rat out their countrymen has one purpose and one purpose alone and that’s oppression and crushing dissent. The whole reason the US exists is because that’s what England does and old habits die hard. It seems that nobody is beyond a little hypocrisy so the US decided to abandon their principles (again) and follow their lead.

Ninja (profile) says:

Remind me of my friend telling me when she was little and got angry she’d say “fuuu” which translates to fuck you. Once her parents discovered the cops, the military, an exorcist priest, the marshals and Terminator were called to restrain the criminal.

After the doomsday, several explosions and pea soup vomit we found out she was mimicking her dad. Because of course.

John85851 (profile) says:

Proving two principles

This proves two principles:
1) When all you have is a hammer, everything is a nail. In this case, everything must be watched in case anyone is a terrorist. This means innocent drawings and toddler-speak are now terrorist acts in the making.
2) Occam’s Razor: how did the authorities twist, warp, and bend the information to make it fit their story of a terrorist in training? Yet the simplest answer is correct: a toddler makes a poor drawing and then doesn’t have the vocabulary to explain it. If he can’t pronounce “cucumber”, why does anyone think he can pronounce “terrorism”?

That Anonymous Coward (profile) says:

Oh look the dial is turned well past 11.
Once upon a time if a teacher didn’t understand what a child said, they would try to work out what was said instead of hearing the worst possible thing they imagine and run sprinting away to seek authorities. One can fault the teacher some, but we must also hold society at fault for making teachers first responders to anything bad.

If you see something say something!!! Do not consider if it is just your imagination reading much more into it, it has to be bad.
Brown man with a camera taking pictures – terrorist scouting next target.
Brown man on a plane speaking all foriegn – terrorists plotting to down the plane.
Brown man buying cooking utensils – terrorist bomb maker.

It is up to you to keep everyone safe. The media will crucify you if this turns out to be a dirty bomb & not just a child with a teddy bear. You citizen have to be vigilant for the motherland, else it will be all your fault.

If you can imagine it must be terrorism, it has to be treated as terrorism. We have the ability to imagine worst case scenarios, and operate from those things being absolutely possible.
It wasn’t powered sugar from a doughnut on the counter, someone (probably that brown guy) was mixing up anthrax in the kitchenette.
It wasn’t spending time with his visiting family, it was evil plots from people who aren’t native english speakers (those dirty bastard should learn our language if they want to be here!!).

We fear things that are different, because we demand everyone be just like us. We can not imagine things happening to people that aren’t like how we experience them. If they are different, they must be bad. These other people who look like them did bad things, so all of them do bad things.

Perhaps passing laws demanding that people stop thinking & report things isn’t the right way to do things. If the teacher had taken the time to work out the child was trying to say cucumber, but an assistant was still sure it was cooker bomb & reported it all hell would break loose on the teacher. To protect ourselves we have to throw others under the bus, else the media breathlessly report US as being terrorist sympathizers destroying our lives.

But hey at least we are safer. We’ve not taught a 4 yr old to not speak up or imagine. We’ve taught a community of our neighbors to be afraid of offending someone. We’ve taught them that we don’t trust them, not for anything THEY have done but because we see the easily identified checkboxes – not the people.

Contrast that with how we don’t fear and report every white HS student, despite the terror caused by school shooters. We don’t suspect every church going person despite those religious zealots who bomb clinics & assassinate doctors.
But we manage to do it to those who don’t look like us.

That Anonymous Coward (profile) says:

Re: Idiots all around...

in the US the school would have started backpeddling and coming up with even more stupid justifications, the cops would have walked up and shot the family dog then arrested the whole family for daring to keep crying after the officer told them to stop, then there would be multiple lawsuits from people claiming they were traumatized by the drawing & that working with the child has given them PTSD.

Anonymous Coward says:


My grandson is 3.

They had a puppy for about 3 weeks, and then one day they realized how much work a puppy is, and gave it to a friend who could better care for it.

I asked the grandson what happened to the puppy, and he said that it got trapped under the water heater, his dad yanks it out, then the grandson starts to show a motion that looked like CPR while saying “Then Daddy did ‘this'”, then the puppy said “arrrwwooo” and died. That was his story.

I took this story to my daughter, who showed me the pictures of the dog being with the friend now very much alive.


AnalogMan says:

Hold on ...

Two points:

1. For those who don’t have children, when a child learns to talk, he does so by imitating what he hears. Sometimes he gets it wrong. What he says is not always what he means; but mostly he is repeating something he heard (or misheard). So, when a child, particularly a Moslem child, repeatedly says “bomb”, a responsible teacher can be forgiven for thinking he heard the word at home. She’s guilty of nothing but an abundance of caution.

2. Yes, I made a generalization about Moslems – and I didn’t even use the PC “Muslim”. And that’s the real crime here; you won’t even name the problem. Those people don’t belong in your country. They’re racially, culturally and religiously alien. Fear of terrorism is not paranoid, it’s perfectly rational. If you hadn’t invited them into your homeland, this would not be happening.

(Yes, of course I’m a racist. That’s a person who believes that race is a real, biological phenomenon, and that it has implications for behaviour. No fool, me.)

Tim says:

When people say ” bomb” doesn’t mean they are making a real atomic bomb. Well, they are try to learn how a atom works to better understanding of the world that is made of atoms. He could be using is brain to make the world a better place then distory it. Don’t let fear control you. Control your fear. Everyone is equal , no one is better then anyone else. You can be better on some subject but that stupid person your talking about can be 10 times better then you on any their subject. Stop be little others so you can sleep at night and they can’t.

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